Organic farming sees great year in 2012

Organic farming

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ALBERT LEA, Minn. — From flooding to drought conditions, it was really all over the map when it came to tough weather conditions last year.

Despite those hurdles, a new report shows organic farmers actually did pretty well.

Stephanie Passingham is with Silver Bee Farms near Conger. Farmers’ markets like the one in Albert Lea are great ways to sell their organic produce.

“Farmers’ markets are a great way to get out and get to know your customers, get to see them firsthand, talk about the food that you have, explain what organic means,” Passingham said.

What they are selling helped them with a solid 2012 growing season.

56 certified organic farmers in the state make up the Minnesota Organic Farm Performance report released by the state department of agriculture. Those numbers show that organic farmers like Passingham turned a profit in 2012.

“This year we got a very early start for those of us who took a chance on some of that early, warm weather, so I think that was a contributing factor. More folks got a chance to get more things in, get them started earlier, had a longer selling season,” Passingham said.

Their produce goes to more than just farmers’ markets. Grocery store chains like Hy-Vee stock their shelves with the natural products.

“We’re seeing the trends to go to more organic and you see that all through the store, even your shelf stable products, but in the produce line, it’s increasing all of the time and the demand is getting more and more,” said Steve Shahan, Albert Lea Store Operations Manager.

Thanks to the demand, Hy-Vee is reaping the benefits too.

“What we’re seeing is about, probably about a 20 percent increase in organic products. People today, they’re wanting to eat healthier, they’re looking for the best quality that they can possible get and organic has that to offer them,” Shahan said.

About 25 percent of their product at the Albert Lea store comes from southern Minnesota.

“People today are willing to spend more money for a quality product that they know is grown safely, is locally grown, is going to be healthy for their lifestyles now,” Shahan said.

With that in mind, Passingham said she is ready for whatever the future brings.

“Every year you look to do a little better, you look to get a little more efficient, look to try new plants, new things that people might be interested in purchasing, so we’re really positive about the coming year,” Passingham said.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture says average and median net farm income for crop and dairy farms also increased substantially in their report.

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